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Sister Missionary, 1946-48 (Part Three)

By: Ardis E. Parshall - May 11, 2011

This post continues the missionary adventures of my aunt, Evelyn Taylor (1924-2010), in the Northern California Mission. See part one (Mission Preparation) and part two (Arrival in the Field).

Evelyn served in the small towns north of San Francisco Bay – Ukiah, Sebastopol, Novato, Santa Rosa, Petaluma, and others. As with so many of us who have served missions, she became very, very familiar with tracting and its ups and downs. From her diary, though, it seems she may have had more ups than downs, being far more able than I ever was to win invitations into people’s homes, to hold gospel conversations, and to win call-back opportunities. These almost random excerpts from her diary regarding tracting indicate that she enjoyed meeting people (including those of other religions, probably for the first time in her life). She mostly engaged in “country tracting” – rural areas where the houses were few and far between. The “Primary tracting” she mentions refers to the efforts of the “lady missionaries” to form home Primaries composed of the one or two member children in an area and as many non-member children as they could persuade to join them; teaching children often led to opportunities to teach entire families.


May 27, 1947

Tuesday – We went tracting this morning. We called on Mrs. Cook and on Harold’s mother. We stayed at Harold’s place a long time. They live on No. Orchard down a ways from hawks and their other boy was drowned in the swim[m]ing pool a few weeks ago. She wanted to talk about him and has a good view about death and believes much the same as we do. We talked to her about the Book of Mormon and how we came to get it. She invited us to her home on Thursday night – a man from the 7th Day Adventist church comes every week and shows them some film. So we’ll go and try to get a meeting with them to show our film.

June 12, 1947

Oh, what a wonderful day. I surely feel good tonight. We tracted a street for Stolworthys this morning but finished it by noon. When we went into town we saw Elders Muir and Johns and they gave us a street on their district. It looked like it would be quite far out in the country. We walked and walked and couldn’t find it – finally thought we must be out of the city limits – we couldn’t see any houses or streets. Finally we came to a house and the lady there told us there was no such street we were looking for, Rodemeyer Lane – the name of the street was Orchard and Rodemeyers live on it. So we trudged back into town – it seemed a long way because it was so hot, we finally found where we wanted to go and there were only five houses there. We got back into town about the time of the bus from San Francisco came in – Elders Hadfield & Griffin came from the office to help us until Sunday. the Hawkes & Muir[s] were there and they gave us the North end of State to do. We met a Catholic lady – a retired army nurse – who was very good to us. We talked to her quite a while and she gave us some biscuits and strawberry jam. We stayed out until six tonight because there was a party at the park and we didn’t have to be home to supper. We got 2 good prospects for ads [the missionaries were preparing a city directory as a service project]. On the way back to town we passed Spencers. Bro. Spencer was out on the steps reading the paper – he called us in and we had a strawberry soda and then he brought us home.

Friday the 13th [June 1947]

It was a good day for the Mormons – we don’t believe in bad luck. Companion & I placed two more Books of Mormon. We only tracted four houses today.

Friday – Aug 22 [1947]

We went to Novato in the morning prepared for a full day of tracting – they have just finished a new divided highway and were having a highway dedication that morning. Practically the whole town came out to it so it would not have been much profit to tract. We sat in the bus pick-up station while it was going on and started talking to a lady next to us. her name is Mrs McIntosh and she told us where she lived and offered to take us around in her car so we could see where people lived.

We had good tracting – the people in Novato are friendly. I don’t know yet whether they will be so friendly to talk about the Gospel, it’s too soon to tell.

Monday, Sep 15, 1947

We started off this morning by Primary tracting – it is to start on Friday at Markhams’. In the afternoon we went out tracting to find our member – Mrs Baughman on Atherton road. It’s about a mile and a half out. She was very glad to see us and said she’d find a way to get her oldest boy in to Primary. They have two boys – 7 and 1-1/2 – her husband is a non-member but she says he knows more about it than she does. We are going out there Thursday night to show the film. She said we could have Sunday School in her home. We sold her a Book of Mormon.

We went out a little farther doing country tracting then and got home rather late. We cooked us a good meal and by the time we started eating it was nearly 87:00. Before we got through Mr Thompson came with a man from the Presbyterian church. Mrs. Lundblad didn’t take them into the front room so they just stayed in the kitchen and talked. Mr. Thompson told us about two members we didn’t know about. He surely is a nice man. his minister didn’t seem very well pleased that he was helping us find members. Mr. Thompson said he was taking up all the time and for the minister to talk. He said “We’ve taken up all the time – you go ahead and talk” (to us). That seemed funny because we could tell he came there for a purpose and not to see us. We didn’t feel like we should take over the conversation. Finally he said to Mrs Lundblad – “Wouldn’t you like to join with us on world-wide communion Sunday?” He gave her a card to sign that showed her decision to unite with them and said their minister would call on her. They surely go about getting members in a different way than we do. He didn’t even tell her a thing about their religion or ask her how she felt about it.

Monday, Sep 29, 1947

We had good tracting in the morning – one lady invited us in and we had a good conversation with her. She is looking for the truth and has to think things out in her mind before she can accept it. She is an elderly woman and of course many of our ideas are so new and different to her she can’t accept it all at once. I don’t think she should be pushed too fast, but she is a good contact. She is acquainted and thinks very much of Pres. Call and is favorable to Mormon doctrine although she doesn’t accept all of it yet.

the afternoon wasn’t as good – there were not many people home. At least we got more tired and didn’t get any invitations in. About 3:30 we saw Elders Beattie and Card, they were getting a root beer at a service station and got one for us too, and then we got our only “invitation in” and sat in their car and got rested. Then we tracted until five – six hours of it today.

At one door where we knocked a man opened it and said there was no one home.

We tracted a Jehovah’s Witness today – they believe Christ came in 1914 at the end of the time of the gentiles. Only those who have faith can see him – meaning the Witnesses. They believe there will only be 144,000 saved.

The tracting wasn’t as good as when we were here in June – or maybe it was because I expected it to be so good and wasn’t humble enough. It’s surely hard to do and I didn’t feel as tho I was giving them what I should.

Wednesday, Oct 29, 1947

We went tracting two hours this morning – to four houses. Of course in country tracting there is a lot of walking but we were invited in two places and talked a while to the third – the fourth wasn’t home.

Pone man (Sprague) had spent 14 months at Bushnell and his brother is a Mormon. He was interested to know that we were here and wanted to know where our church was. We have met several that we’ve invited out. I wish we had a hall to meet in.

One woman is on the committe[e] that rents the Community House – at first we just talked outside – then she invited us in – we didn’t talk much Gospel but I believe we did leave a good impression.

Thursday, Oct 30, 1947

We tracted in the afternoon. We put out one Book of Mormon – Mrs. Askin. She invited us in and we had a good conversation. It was my door and I started by talking about the pre-existence. She seemed very interested in what we told her.

At one door a man said – “We’re all Roman Catholic here but you’re welcome to come in.” They were from the East and had a lovely home. They’re Spanish and seem to have a close family unit. We talked about religion for a while – he had known Mormons in the army and asked whether Joseph Smith had written a book or found one. So we had a good opening.

Monday, Nov. 3, 1947

We tracted second visits today along Novato Blvd. They were either NH [not home] or NI [not interested]. We went to see Mr Silvers to find out if we could rent the Portugese Hall and he said they’d decided not to rent it because they’ll probably want to use it.

Tuesday, Nov 4, 1947

Made second visits again today, it was about the same as yesterday. we met a man who knows several Mormons at Hamilton Field and his daughter-in-law, who may be moving out here soon, is a Mormon. We gave him our address and he said he’d give it to them. He invited us in and was very willing to help us.

His next door neighbor had been friendly the first visit and accepted a tract and when she came to the door she said – “Oh, my goodness – are you here again?” She said she didn’t know anything about any church and seemed interested in what we said and when we said we had another pamphlet wanted to read it. We gave her a Friendly Discussion.

Wednesday, June 2, 1948

We called back on Mrs Russo on Scott St. She was very interested in hearing us explain the godhead tho she said she had never thought of it that way. We also told her about the restoration. She has just recently become interested in religion and has started to read her Bible. She wants to read it through first so we suggested that she keep on reading it and we would call on her one afternoon a week and discuss some subject. She said that would be up to us. I know she was interested in what we discussed today and was afraid she’d be taking too much of our time so we said we’d call back next week.

We had some good tracting today with several invitations in. One woman invited us in – she’s a Catholic – and we told her about the Book of Mormon and she wants to read it. She’d like to buy it but doesn’t have the money now so we’re going to loan her one. (She surely has some beautiful daughters.)

One man told us he believed in religion, but not our line.

We talked for a while to nearly every person we met tho we can’t call back on any of them. Some of them may work into something good.

Thursday, June 3, 1948

We had a good morning of tracting. At least we had a lot of conversations – we gave a sermon to everyone who was home, except to one woman who said she was a very good member of the Presbyterian church and wouldn’t be interested, good by.

At one door we heard a woman call “come in.” there she was, sitting up in bed working and she held her hands out to us and was very friendly. We found out she was the Christian Science practitioner. I don’t see how an intelligent person can believe what she explained to us of their religion. When I asked her how they explained the resurrection she said that because his mind so fully understood the nothingness of death that his body couldn’t stay in the grave. What their idea of God is is more like the attributes of God. I pointed out some scriptures in the bible to her and asked some questions that stumped her and she couldn’t answer. Once she said that if it made me happy to believe that way it was all right to believe it. But she’s so mixed up there’s no sense or rhyme or reason to it.

So many people just close their minds to the truth – I talked quite a bit on divine authority to one woman but she was so sure God would recognize anyone she wouldn’t even try to reason.

Another woman we talked quite a while to was very satisfied with her church. As we were leaving she said, “My church teaches from the Bible.” I told her we took all of our claims from the bible and could give references for all of them. She said, “Oh, well, you can prove anything you want to from the Bible.” I said, “I don’t believe that” and it really surprised her. I went on and told her how you have to take the Bible as a whole.

The reason I’ve liked tracting so much this week si because we’ve talked so much. We had a cottage meeting with Mrs. Carner in the afternoon. She was quite worried, it seemed, about what to do about going to church. She wants to go to the Mormon but her little boy goes to the Presbyterian and her husband would like her to go to that one, too. We told her to try them both and see which she liked best – Putnam said she would come and get her some morning and take her to Sunday School (after next week there will be missionaries in Sebastopol) and I think that cinched it because she would really like to go to our meetings and she said she’d go.

She’s such a good contact. I really like her.

I got my release in the mail today. It was quite a surprise because I hadn’t expected to be going home so soon. I felt rather bad about it for a while but it’s wearing off now. I’m glad this week has been good.




6 Comments »

  1. Wow, Ardis. Except for the Primary Tracting and the decade, location, and language, this could be straight out of my mission journal for my third area in western Germany.

    At one door where we knocked a man opened it and said there was no one home.

    I remember that happening from time to time, and it was always the source of much wonderment and amusement.

    The Jehovah’s Witnesses. People told us that from time to time about the Second Coming. I imagine the missionaries now are probably hearing a lot about the Second Coming which Harold Camping has scheduled for May 21 (ten days from now!). (That’s a tangent since Camping is not affiliated with the JW.)

    I’ve always felt a little sheepish because right before I left my third area, I street contacted one of the head honchos from the local Jehovah’s Witness congregation. He hadn’t realized there were sister missionaries in Unna, and the JWs started a major campaign to tract and retract the entire area, so the next set of sisters had to deal with a population tired of answering the door to religious people.

    She’s such a good contact. I really like her.

    How lovely. I corresponded with an investigator from my third area for at least a decade after my mission. We finally lost contact a few years ago when she remarried and moved and I moved. Besides all the duties and responsibilities and hard work of missionary work, getting to know people and make some good friends was a real high point of the experience.

    Thanks for this post, Ardis. What a lovely post, what a nice aunt, and what wonderful memories her journal entries bring back.

    Comment by Researcher — May 11, 2011 @ 8:09 am

  2. Your aunt is so positive, and her writings seem to have so much joy and love.

    Comment by HokieKate — May 11, 2011 @ 10:34 am

  3. This is great, Ardis. My great-grandmother served a mission in Chicago (Central States Mission, I believe) in the 1920s. I wish I had access to a journal of her experiences. Thank you for sharing!

    Comment by Matt — May 11, 2011 @ 1:32 pm

  4. The Japanese were famous for polite if disingenuous responses to tracting missionaries. “Rusu desu” was a common response–essentially, “Nobody’s home.”

    It was especially fun to get a string of contradictory excuses at adjacent doors:

    “The children are in bed.”

    “The children are still up.”

    “We’re putting the children to bed.”

    “We have children.”

    “We don’t have any children.”

    By the end of a run like that, it’d be hard to keep a straight face.

    Comment by Mark B. — May 11, 2011 @ 3:11 pm

  5. “The reason I’ve liked tracting so much this week is because we’ve talked so much.”

    I’m glad your aunt took the time to record some really great details: Bro. Spencer inviting them in for a strawberry soda, the elders getting a root beer at the service station, and her reaction to her unexpected release. And especially all the various reactions to the missionaries’ message: “One man told us he believed in religion, but not our line”; the Christian Scientist who said that if it made one happy to believe a certain way, “it was all right to believe it”; and the lady who was surprised by your aunt saying she didn’t actually believe that you could prove anything you want to from the Bible. Great stuff. Thanks.

    Comment by David Y. — May 11, 2011 @ 5:06 pm

  6. I really enjoyed these glimpses into your aunt’s mission and her feelings.

    Comment by Maurine Ward — May 11, 2011 @ 11:43 pm

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